Context: Interpretation of dexamethasone suppression test (DST) may be influenced by dexamethasone absorption and metabolism and by the altered cortisol binding. Objective: We aimed to determine the normal ranges of free cortisol during DST in participants without adrenal disorders and to identify the population of patients where post-DST free cortisol measurements add value to the diagnostic workup. Design and Setting: Cross-sectional study conducted in a tertiary medical center. Participants: Adult volunteers without adrenal disorders (n = 168; 47 women on oral contraceptive therapy [OCP], 66 women not on OCP, 55 men) and patients undergoing evaluation for hypercortisolism (n = 196; 16 women on OCP). Measurements: Post-DST dexamethasone and free cortisol (mass spectrometry) and total cortisol (immunoassay). Main Outcome Measures: Reference range for post-DST free cortisol, diagnostic accuracy of post-DST total cortisol. Results: Adequate dexamethasone concentrations (≥0.1 mcg/dL) were seen in 97.6% volunteers and 96.3% patients. Only 25.5% of women volunteers on OCP had abnormal post-DST total cortisol (>1.8 mcg/dL). In volunteers, the upper post-DST free cortisol range was 48 ng/dL in men and women not on OCP, and 79 ng/dL in women on OCP. When compared with post-DST free cortisol, diagnostic accuracy of post-DST total cortisol was 87.3% (95% CI, 81.7-91.7); all false-positive results occurred in patients with post-DST cortisol between 1.8 and 5 mcg/dL. OCP use was the only factor associated with false-positive results (21.1% vs 4.9%, P = 0.02). Conclusions: Post-DST free cortisol measurements are valuable in patients with optimal dexamethasone concentrations and post-DST total cortisol between 1.8 and 5 mcg/dL.
- Adrenal adenoma
- Adrenal mass
- Mild autonomous cortisol secretion
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical